We have already reported on how bamboo construction can protect homes against earthquake damage. But that is by no means the only way in which bamboo can help to safeguard against natural disaster. While harvesting the stalks can lead to its use in making the frames of houses both durable and flexible, merely planting and cultivating the crop can provide benefits to entire villages that face other natural threats.
In the Visayas region of the Philippines, the Department of Energy and Natural Resources is promoting bamboo cultivation by local governments in areas that could be threatened by landslides. Planting bamboo in potentially loose soil can serve to hold the earth in place with its dense and wide-spreading system of roots. This can limit erosion, particularly the large-scale sheet erosion that can lead to fatalities and property damage.
Landslides pose a threat to areas of virtually every province in the Visaya area, including more than 2,500 villages. But the same phenomenon leads to billions of dollars in damage and the loss of thousands of lives worldwide each year. The safeguard that is being proposed in the Philippines can thus be of benefit to various other areas of the globe, including the United States.
Landslides occur throughout the US, but especially on the west coast and in areas near the Appalachian Mountains. Domestically, the annual cost of such disasters is in the vicinity of $3.5 billion, and they kill between twenty-five and fifty people. Bamboo grows naturally or can be cultivated in most of the US and most of the world. Without needing to do anything other than plant it strategically, residents of various at-risk communities can use bamboo to protect themselves against possible disasters.
In Sapang Bato, another area of the Philippines, a businessman and farmer named Renato Tayag, Jr. single-handedly started a re-greening program that consisted of planting two-thousand bamboo groves in what was a largely barren landscape twenty years ago. The goal of the program is to protect the City of Angeles and nearby villages from potentially catastrophic flooding of the Sacobia River. The water could flow quickly over the region’s hills and threaten the city, but the presence of a large amount of bamboo in the area should hold back the water, slowing any flooding, and reducing the amount of water that reaches homes and towns.
Bamboo-based strategies for preventing landslides or flooding could be implemented in most any other region where such things pose a threat. And as in the Philippines, any area that does so will then have access to the benefits that come of bamboo’s various other uses, as well. If some of it is harvested as a building material, it can help produce inexpensive homes that are also capable of withstanding natural threats. Otherwise, its shoots can be harvested for food, it can be exported, and if requisite industries are in place, it can make sustainable and locally sourced clothing.
Bamboo thus has the ability to protect and enhance the environment and people’s lives at every stage of its life cycle. Utilized as a raw material, it is sustainable and ecologically friendly; in its natural state, it not only helps to counteract global warming, but it can even protect lives and property against natural threats to human habitation.